Reflections on 2023: Maddy Nutt
As we creep towards the final months of 2023, we asked three riders from three different disciplines to open up about their year on the bike. From ultra-distance racing, months-long tours and single-day gravel racing, Apidura is proud to support the leading riders who represent every angle of our sport. Maddy Nutt is part of the Ribble Collective and this year has taken gravel racing head-on, completing the Gravel Earth series in third place. Read on to find out first-hand about Maddy’s first season fully focused on this fast-paced, gruelling discipline.
Reading time: 3 min
My first season fully focused on gravel racing has been an absolute whirlwind. I started the season feeling pretty assured that I knew how to tackle an endurance gravel race, and what endurance gravel racing was, but I very quickly discovered that I still had space for so much learning and development, as I tackled longer and harder races on varied terrain.
I kicked off my international racing with The Traka 360 in Spain, my longest race of the season, which presented a huge challenge in terms of hydration and fuelling. I nailed my planning for the race and had two Apidura hydration vests ready for a Formula 1 style feed zone changeover. What I unfortunately failed to nail was successfully filling up the second vest or informing my swanny (aka my little sister) to fill it up. The catastrophic result was me flying out of the first feed zone with an empty hydration vest on, an accidental mission to dehydrate. Luckily, I somehow resurrected from the dehydration I did experience, crossing the line in a strong 5th position, albeit rather worse for wear.
I took learnings from this error through to other races, and tackled The Rift in Iceland fully hydrated, using the Racing Top Tube Pack to store enough gels to fuel 200km of volcanic gravel. It was great to have these at such easy access, with the design intelligently keeping everything secure over the rough terrain. The scenery at this race can only be described as otherworldly, and there were moments where I really did question whether I had been secretly teleported to Mars, with the vastness of Iceland’s black gravel distracting me from the fatigue in my legs.
From the lava fields of Iceland, I took my gravel bike over to the Mexican desert, and found myself dodging cacti to take the win at Gravel Mexico 200, after a horrific sidewall puncture that lost me 35 minutes only 5km into the race.
My bike and I also made it over to the Maasai Mara national park in Kenya, which was without a doubt the highlight of my 2023 season. The Migration Gravel Race is coined one of the toughest gravel races in the world, and the four long brutal stages certainly defended this status, with technical single track descents and long washboard sections putting my strength and resilience to the test. The wildlife at this race was purely incredible, and despite it resulting in me losing a few minutes in the final stage, I simply cannot complain about being asked to wait for a herd of elephants to cross the route. Their size and grace was purely magical. Despite my pause for elephants, I took the win on the final stage of the race, taking me to 2nd overall, the most stand-out result of my season.
A second trip across the Atlantic ocean took me to Unbound gravel in the U.S., the largest gravel race in the world. Here, I struck unlucky with mud proving to be my enemy. Along with many others, I found myself hauling my bike through a long thick ‘peanut butter mud’ section, taking me out of contention and extending my day quite considerably! Despite the sticky situation, the atmosphere of this event was electric and I felt hugely satisfied to cross the line after completing the 200 mile challenge.
My travels have also taken me less further afield with races up in Galloway in Scotland, home to some stunning Scottish gravel. Here, I raced both a one day UCI race and a three day stage race and fell in love with the gorgeous gravel tracks through the forests, as well as the kindness and enthusiasm of the locals.
This year has been filled with so much learning; incredible travel and delicious food. I have developed my skills and abilities as a gravel racer, and started to prove myself at the very pinnacle of the sport at an international level. I am finishing this season satisfied with my efforts, but also enthusiastic and intrigued by future challenges and adventures. I am left wondering where my limits are, and how far I can push myself as an athlete, which I cannot wait to further explore in 2024.